City officials investigating other cities’ regulation of rental homes

Published 11:03 pm Thursday, July 26, 2018

As homes continue to be listed for short-term rental in Troy, city officials are researching what other cities have done to regulate the emerging business sector.

There are currently four homes listed on Airbnb, a company that allows partnering homeowners to post their home or room for rent. Three of the homes are downtown, where zoning permits such activity, and the other is located on Trojan Way and received special allowance for renting and hosting events in 2014.

Another home recently listed for rent in the city did not have a business license though and was operating in a residential zone that does not allow for short-term rental usage.

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Planning and zoning administrator Melissa Sanders said Tuscaloosa is one city being reviewed, as officials there have already created regulations specifically regarding these short-term rental homes.

Will Smith, land use controls manager for the City of Tuscaloosa, said the city passed regulations in the summer of 2017 after the issue came to light there.

“The city council passed an ordinance that allows short-term rentals under certain conditions in certain locations,” Smith said. “Before that, it was simply not allowed anywhere in the city.”

Although the use was not permitted, Smith said residents were operating the homes anyway “under the table.” To address the growing situation, Smith said the council decided to create two “tourist overlay districts” where the bulk of the activity was happening.

“One district is the downtown campus district which includes the greater downtown area, including University of Alabama campus,” Smith said. “The other is the Lake District. Any property that physically touches the lake is allowed to do it under certain conditions. That’s kind of where it was happening.”

Smith said these two areas were the main places that tourists were wanting to come and stay, whether for Alabama football games or for the lake views.

No properties outside of those districts are allowed to be used as short-term rental homes, Smith said, although any resident can still come before the Board of Adjustments to appeal for a variance that would allow the practice outside of the districts.

Inside of the districts, Smith said there are certain other restrictions placed on homeowners.

“If a home is in a subdivision in the Lake District, the owner would have to submit a letter from the homeowners’ association stating that the people of the neighborhood are OK with renting the home as a short-term rental.”

Although smaller in scale, Troy has some of the same factors in play for tourists with alumni and fans traveling in to enjoy football and other sporting events at Troy University.

Smith said the city recently hired two code enforcement officers to ensure that the city zoning ordinances are followed.

“They monitor the various websites and receive the complaints or tips from citizens,” Smith said. “ While they do not solely handle short-term rental enforcement, that is their primary role at this juncture.”

While the city determines how to handle short-term rentals within city limits, other rental homes have cropped up out in the county, including a pool house and bedroom near Goshen.

Paula Hall, who oversees business licenses in the county, said there is no business license required for residents outside of city limits that want to rent out a house or room.

“Stores, barbershops, things like that need a business license,” Hall said. “But if you want to rent out you house, you can do that without a license.”

Hall said that is state policy in Alabama; the county follows state policy.

County administrator McKenzie Wilson said lodging tax must still be collected and remitted to the county though.

Lodging tax is also required to be remitted for short-term rentals inside the city limits.